Law 20920. Establishment of a framework for waste management, extended producer responsibility and recycling.

Last updated: 12 December 2023

In 2016, the Chilean Congress passed Law 20.920 to reduce waste generation and promote its reuse, recycling, and other types of recovery through the establishment of extended producer responsibility and other waste management instruments.

To achieve these goals, law 20.920 establishes the following fundamental principles:

  • “Polluter pays”: The waste generator is responsible for the waste and must internalise the costs and negative externalities associated with its management.
  • Gradualism: The obligations to prevent waste generation and promote its reuse, recycling, and other types of recovery will be established or required progressively.
  • Inclusion: A set of training, financing, and formalisation mechanisms and instruments aim to enable the full integration of “basic recyclers” in waste management.
  • Hierarchy in waste management: Order of preference for waste management, which considers the prevention of waste generation as the first priority, followed by its reuse, recycling (all or only its components), and energy recovery. Therefore, waste elimination should be the last alternative.
  • Competition: The operation of management systems should not threaten market competition.
  • Participatory: Communities’ education, opinion, and involvement are necessary to prevent waste generation and promote its reuse, recycling, and other types of recovery.
  • Precautionary: The lack of scientific certainty cannot be invoked to stop implementing measures to reduce the risk of damage to the environment and human health derived from waste management.
  • Preventive: Actions or measures are established to change behaviour regarding the inputs and raw materials used in production or design processes and consumption. These actions or measures also aim to avoid waste generation or reduce its quantity and danger. 
  • Responsibility of the waste generator: The generator's responsibility begins at the initial moment of waste generation and continues to its recovery or disposal ("cradle to grave"). 
  • Transparency and publicity: Waste management will be carried out transparently. The community should have access to the relevant information.
  • Traceability: Set of pre-established and self-sufficient procedures that allow knowing the quantities, location, and trajectory of waste or a batch of waste throughout the management chain.

Following law 20.920, all waste generators must deliver waste to an authorised manager for treatment. The authorised manager must handle the waste in an environmentally sound manner, applying the best available techniques and practices.

Regarding extended producer responsibility, article 9 of law 20.920 define it as a special regime of waste management, according to which the producers of priority products are responsible for the organisation and financing of the waste management of the mentioned products. The priority products are: a) lubricating oils; b) electrical and electronic devices; c) all types of batteries; d) containers and packaging; and e) tires. 

Finally, with regards to recycling, Law 20.920 creates a fund to finance projects, programs, and actions to prevent waste generation and promote its reuse, recycling, and other types of recovery, executed by municipalities or their associations.

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